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Archive for the ‘beans’ Category

When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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Regular readers know that I suffered catastrophic garden losses thanks to a house/cat/garden sitter who did a great job with two out of three.  I’m pleased to report, though, that courtesy of the pre-soaking (and sometimes pre-sprouting) technique, I’ve got butter peas, summer squash of several varieties, cucumbers (Armenian and a pickling cucumber), and okra all peeping out of the earth, facing the scorching temperatures bravely.  A bunch of different basils successfully sprouted too, as did some volunteer radishes.  I hope that winter squash will emerge soon to join all of the other garden babies.  I’m watering all of my seedlings daily, in hopes that our record-high temperatures will break soon.  It was too late for re-planting the dozens of peppers I lost, but everything else is pretty well on track.

My tomatoes were better prepared for abuse than everything else, having not only been planted extra-deep but also having thick mulch and soaker hoses.  They are doing really well, especially my Principe Borghese sun-drying tomatoes.  I have an Excalibur dehydrator on its way to the homestead now to process these little ruby gems into chewy, almost smoky intensely tomato-y dried treats for winter and spring.  I hope our apples continue to grow, as it looks like we’ll have plenty of those for drying as well as for savory jelly and apple butter.

And we’ve still got some peppers, some eggplants, leeks, carrots, cabbages . . . and grand plans for fall plantings of more cool-season vegetables.

What’s growing in your garden?  What are you planning for fall in the garden?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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As regular readers know, our Grand Canyon adventure resulted in a lot of dead garden at our house.  I could sit and weep among the remains of spring’s hopeful planting, or I can re-plant.  I prefer re-planting.  That means calculating days and figuring out what can germinate, grow, and be harvested before frost.

One of the biggest limitations for gardening is germination temperatures.  Certain seeds will not germinate in soils warmer than about 70 degrees, while other seeds can’t germinate below those temperatures but prefer temperatures at closer to 80 degrees F.  Very few vegetable seeds like to wake up in the sauna that is our Arkansas summers, but you can coax a few along with a little soaking and extra care.

Next, consider how much growing time you have before first frost or, more importantly, first regular frosts.  We’ve got, believe it or not, almost 90 days left.  That means I can select almost every summer squash out there, cucumbers, pole and bush beans, okra, some melons, and a few winter squashes.

Finally, what do you have the energy to put in in the heat?  Frankly, it’s pushing 100 degrees here and “feels” 103-107 degrees F thanks to the humidity.  I can work for a few hours but more could lead to heat stroke.

So far, my pre-soak method has gotten squash ands butter peas to emerge from the soil two days after I planted them.  I didn’t pre-sprout basil, but that too has come up with lots of water and loving care, along with some volunteer radishes.  My pole beans, however, have not cooperated, so my bean teepees may be cucumber teepees this year.

Believe it or not, I still plan to put out a little winter squash.  I hope to keep the vines in check so I can cover them with veggie tunnels as the temperatures drop.  I’ll also plant okra and cucumbers, using the seed-soaking and pre-germination method I mentioned earlier.  And my tomatoes look great!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  All rights reserved.

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Meatless Mondays are making a comeback that they haven’t seen since the Great War–um, meaning World War I.  Okay, yes, they had a resurgence in World War II, but that war was much less about slogans and much more about the reality of rationing.  All that history aside, Meatless Mondays are a healthy way to add more vegetable protein to your life and help save our planet.  They can also be incredibly tasty and, frankly, more satisfying and filling that meat-filled days–especially if you include such a rich dish as baba ghanouj (baba ghanoush).  Baba ghanouj can form a centerpiece of a perfectly light, healthy, and cool summer meal.

I got introduced to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food more than a quarter of a century ago when I lived in Boston.  I doubt if I’ve ever had authentic, but I know that the large ethnic enclaves in Michigan where I lived more recently got pretty close.  Baba ghanouj, believe it or not, was probably the first way I had eggplant. I really like it.

Today we can get beautiful smaller eggplants like Japanese varieties that have little bitterness and form the ideal foundation for baba ghanouj for two.  Two Japanese eggplants should serve four.

For two servings, roast at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes a Japanese eggplant, slit but not cut through, in a glass or cast iron covered pan along with 2 to 4 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled and tough ends cut off but otherwise intact.  Slice the eggplant in half, scoop it out of the tough skin, and mash it with the garlic and about a tablespoon or two of tahini (sesame paste).  Yes, it’s okay to let everything cool a bit. That’s it.  What you’ll have is a thick dip ready to serve at room temperature that has an unexpected sweetness from both the garlic and eggplant.  The tahini has the advantage of being the only food that can actually lower your cholesterol without drugs–that is, sesame does that!

Serve baba ghanouj with whole-wheat pita wedges (yes, you can make pita at home too, but that’s another post) and slices of chilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, carrots, peppers, and radishes (in cooler climes) for dipping.

Baba ghanouj works great as an appetizer but also works for a whole meal.  We like it with falafel (fried chickpea patties, easily made from mix or homemade, to stuff in more pita) and tadziki (thick yogurt with diced cucumber, dill, and lemon) to increase the protein content of the meal.  I’ll post those recipes in the near future.  Meanwhile, consider baba ghanouj for a cool summer supper or your next picnic or potluck.

Copright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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We went from wondering if another ice age was on its way to believing in global warming again this week.  The unseasonably warm weather cried out for a cooler dinner, and gigantic chives and Asian mustard that went from salad size to mandatory cooking overnight made me think of some of our favorite pseudo-Asian meals.  Tonight we’re having spicy peanut-sesame noodles with broccoli, coconut-crusted chicken, and a mess of mustard greens finished with hoisin sauce.

I first had peanut-sesame noodles a couple of decades ago at a Chinese restaurant in a country house outside Madison, Wisconsin.  Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if the place was licensed as a restaurant, but it got a big following quickly.  The food was good, but the most fun was the owner’s enthusiastic teenage daughter, Sunshine.  After we’d visited a few times, Sunshine told us that she was going to order for us that night, not from the menu but one of her favorite things that her mother made for the family.  Out came the noodles.  I was in love.  These probably bear little resemblance to those, but I can make them with ingredients I have on hand.

Spicy Peanut-Sesame Noodles

This recipe will make more than enough noodles for a whole family of four (or more).  I used whole-wheat spaghetti noodles, but you could use udon noodles or thick rice noodles too.

Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 box whole-wheat spaghetti noodles
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or veggie–also okay to use water, but then you’ll need to increase the other ingredients a bit)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup good peanut butter
  • 1 hot pepper (chile), diced finely–I used a red peter pepper I had in the freezer.  Feel free to use more peppers if you like it spicier.
  • 1 crushed garlic clove or several garlic chives, diced finely
  • 2-3 dashes rice wine vinegar
  • 6-7 dashes soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • optional:  freshly grated ginger or pickled ginger, slivered
  • 2-4 scallions or chives, sliced across the grain (both whites and tops)
  • carrot, slivered or coarsely grated
  • optional garnishes:  cilantro, coarsely grated radish, snow peas, shelled edamame

Begin by prepping the sauce for the noodles.  Heat the peanut butter and broth to get everything moving.  I heat them in a one-cup pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then use the measuring cup for mixing everything else. Add in the hot pepper, garlic, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.*

Now prepare the noodles according to package directions.  Pour off the cooking liquid and while the noodles are still hot, add the sauce and stir well to combine.  Stir in some of the scallions, carrots, and garnish and pile the rest artfully on top.  Set the noodles aside or refrigerate.  You’ll serve these noodles at room temperature or even cold.

Do you want to make this a vegetarian one-dish meal?  Use the veggie broth, and toss in shelled edamame or stir-fried tofu.  By the way, this sauce is an excellent appetizer dip for vegetables!  When we take it to parties, people love that it’s not the same-old ranch or bleu cheese dip, and it’s a lot healthier for you.

Go ahead and take a closer look.

Quick Broccoli

I used two cups of florets, fresh from our garden, and tossed them in salted water in the wok.  That’s all!  Then I used them as additional garnish on the noodles.

Coconut-Crusted Spicy Chicken

serves 2-4

  • 1 chicken breast, about half a pound, cut into strips (half of the thickness of the breast, about 3/4-inch wide each)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2-4 tablespoons lime juice
  • optional:  2 tablespoons rice vinegar (use if you only use 2 tablespoons of lime juice)
  • 1 large jalapeno or other chile, diced fine (or more to taste)
  • 1 egg, beaten  You don’t need to double the egg if you double the recipe.
  • 1/3 cup coconut

Start by making the marinade by mixing together your liquids and prepped jalapeno.  Process everything with a stick blender or in a regular blender.  It’s okay if some of the pepper remains unprocessed.  If you do not have a blender, just chop the pepper even more and let it meld with the marinade for a little while..

Pour the brine/marinade over the chicken breast strips and let everything soak for several hours, turning regularly to make sure that the marinade reaches all parts. (If you’d like to let the chicken soak overnight in the mix, add 1/4 cup water to make a brine.  Otherwise, the acid in the juice and vinegar will “cook” the chicken and make it tough.)

To have un-crusted chicken, pour off the marinade or brine and stir-fry the chicken in a little coconut oil.  To crust the chicken, pour off the brine, dry the chicken well, and dip it first in the egg and then in the coconut.  Place the chicken pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake it in a 325 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through, until the chicken is golden brown on the outside (and, obviously, cooked through inside.)

I also served dinner with mustard greens in hoisin sauce (pictured in the upper right corner of the bowl).  Simply prep a mess of greens (see photos above and below for what constituted a “mess of greens” tonight!) by stripping off the tough stems, chopping everything roughly, stir-frying quickly in sesame oil, and tossing in some hoisin sauce to finish wilting the greens.  As hot as it’s been outside, the greens were really sharp.

*If you have a family member who’s a little leary of new things, reduce or leave out the toasted sesame oil altogether and add a bit more chicken broth and vegetable oil to thin the noodle dressing. Sesame oil has a distinctive (some say acquired) flavor.

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We’re still polishing off the wonderful pasture-raised turkey that I got from Falling Sky Farm for Thanksgiving.  You may remember that we ate a lot of turkey eat fresh then, but I also broke it down enough immediately to freeze some in various serving sizes.  Today I’m going to use about four ounces of the turkey along with wild rice and vegetables to make a hearty, healthy entree soup that’s perfect for these frugal economic times.  I’m serving it with acorn squash, roasted and stuffed with apples, cranberries, and walnuts, for an extra kick of healthy flavor to round out the meal.  This soup and acorn squash meets the old Southern standard of “meat and three” in an unusual form, and most of the ingredients came from our land or a nearby farm.  With just 4 ounces of turkey in the whole soup, you are getting most of your protein from the frugal, healthy combination of wild rice and beans, but no one will miss a pile of meat in this meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 thin pat butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • shaft (white) portion of a leek, cut in half lengthwise to clean out the grit and then sliced across the shaft (or 1/2 sweet yellow onion)–Save the tougher leaves for a recipe you’ll puree.
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/3 cup diced celery (basically a rib)
  • 1/3 cup wild rice
  • twig (about 5 inches long, leaves attached) or two of fresh rosemary (Don’t have fresh?  use 1  teaspoon of dried rosemary.)
  • four or  more  leaves of fresh sage  (Don’t have fresh?  Use 1 teaspoon of rubbed sage.)
  • optional:  1 or 2 hot peppers, sliced thinly
  • 4 ounces of cooked turkey (about a 1/3-1/2 cup)–Yes, you could use diced chicken, even fresh, as long as you add it in the soup when you start the rice and increase your herb quantity.
  • 1/2-1 cup pole beans (a.k.a. green beans), cut into bite-sized pieces–I used a mix of green and wax (yellow) beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by prepping your leeks. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, like a 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven.  Add the leeks, stir, and start to caramelize.  Dice the carrots.  Add those too.  Dice the celery.  Add it too. By now your leeks will be caramelized sufficiently.  Add the wild rice and a cup and a half of water and stir.Yes, that’s the wild rice–actually not rice but a grass seed.  It’s got a nutty flavor. Now lay the rosemary twig and sage on the top.  Do not stir in; we’re going to take them out later.  (Of course, stir them in if you used dried herbs.) Simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes.  Take out the herbs if you used fresh.  Add the turkey, beans, and optional chiles with 2-3 cups more water and about 1 teaspoon salt.  Be forewarned:  the rice is already cooked, but it is a very thirsty grain.  It will keep soaking up liquid, but we’ve made this soup flavorful enough that you can safely keep adding water.  Add salt and pepper to taste as needed.

makes 5-6 cups of soup

Serve this simple, comforting soup with a hearty vegetable side like our acorn squash halves stuffed with diced apples, cranberries, and walnuts seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Do you have questions about wild rice?  Do you have a favorite wild rice recipe you’d like to share?  Join the discussion in the comments section!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Among the seeds that I grew for the first time this year was a fresh-eating soybean (edamame:  pronounced Ed-uh-mommy) called “beer friend.”  “Beer friend” grows on compact bushes and can be harvested in two relatively painless rounds.  My single seed packet yielded two big, full gallon bags of edamame, blanched in salted water and quickly frozen.  Of course, I’m not confessing to how many of the salted, blanched soybeans I munched while I was blanching the rest, plus we ate a whole bunch freshly blanched too.  I will not only grow “beer friend” again; I’m planting twice as much as I did last year.

“Beer friend” soybean is supposed to be a favorite snack in Japan, and I can see why.  To eat the edamame, give it a quick blanch in salted water and then let it cool enough to pop the beans out of the pod.  These are definitely finger food!  They are sweet, buttery, and so fresh flavored that I’m sure the whole family will love them.

Soybeans, as beans, will grow best if you pre-soak them (to give them a little head start on sprouting) and then coat them in an inoculant of helpful bacteria before you plant them.  For that reason, I recommend that you let your younger children calculate how many feet of planting you’ll have for the number of seed and prepare the row but not do the actual planting.  (You can do that!)  At least in our climate, “beer friend” edamame needed nothing more than planting and harvesting.  Since these are a bush bean whose swelling pods will make it clear when it’s time to harvest, I think they’re perfect for little hands to come back in the end and gather.  Let your children harvest them and wash them, and then help them with the blanching.  Then it’s snack time!

If you have soybeans that you’d like to save to enjoy through the winter, dip the soybean pods in boiling, heavily salted water for a minute.  Then drain them well and put them on a cookie sheet to freeze individually.  As soon as the exterior is frozen, put them in containers and try to eliminate the air.  Now when you want a little bowl for an appetizer, just pull out however many you need, microwave them for about 30 seconds (per small bowl), and serve.

Your soybeans can also help the rest of your garden grow.  I interspersed my soybeans among some of my corn, a heavy nitrogen feeder, so that the beans helped return nitrogen to the soil.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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In the depths of winter and cabin fever, dreams of spring keep me going.

As I look on my snow-shrouded bean teepees, I remember how beautiful they looked this past summer, so laden with beans and pushing their way to the sky.  One person who saw them recommended if I heard a NASA countdown start, to take cover.  Yes, they sort of looked like rockets on the launch pad.

Bean teepees can add architectural interest to a largely linear garden.

Bean teepees can be constructed of rustic, sturdy limbs or, like mine, milled lumber.  Each of my teepees include 4 pieces of 1×2, 8-foot long lumber.  The 8-foot length on an angle really helps people like me who are vertically challenged pick veggies off tall vines.  I’ve added nails at regular intervals for stringing twine on three sides (and the upper area of the fourth side) to help the beans grow up.  Here, you can see a newly planted bean teepee. I always position them with the open side to the north, so that kids and pets can crawl in to get relief from the summer heat.  The fancy twine pattern on the north side (the opposite side in this photograph) gives the structure extra strength.  I push the legs into the ground well before I do the planting but then give another push to stabilize them in the wet earth.  Here, each leg spreads four feet from the other legs, but you could use a three-foot or five-foot spread too (although the three-foot spread is less stable than a wider stance).

I typically plant each bean teepee with different varieties of beans.  In this way, I’ll have a longer harvest with more options for use. I’m also much less likely to get tired of any single kind of bean night after night for dinner.  

In 2009 I created some combinations myself, like the one you can see in the teepee above,  green yard-long asparagus beans from Botanical Interests and red yard-long beans from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seed, available from several other sources too.  I also grew wax (yellow) and green French beans from  a combination packet at Renee’s Garden.  The combination is not available in 2010, but I’ll be ordering her green filet and wax filet together this year instead.  I’ll be ordering her Tri-Color Pole Bean Trio too.  Other pole beans you may want to try include Kentucky Wonder.

Do you photographs or your bean teepees or bean teepee plans you’d like to share with readers of Ozarkhomesteader?  Do you have favorite varieties of pole beans?  Do you have questions about bean teepees or finding pole bean seeds?  Let me know!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  Short excerpts with full links are welcome.  Please contact me for permission for photographs.

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I learned this recipe for vegetable soup from my Georgia grandmother.  She made it with whatever meat she had on hand, often pot roast.  My mother rarely made pot roast, so she cooked up ground beef.  I use whatever poultry I have on hand, but you could easily make this a tasty, healthy vegan soup that meets all your nutritional needs in one bowl by leaving the meat or poultry out.  This soup fits the old Southern “meat and three” (or meatless and three!) meal of beans, grains, and nutritious vegetables.  It is a bowl full of warm flavors.  You’ll want to make a big pot of it, because the flavors will continue to meld into something even more wonderful after the first day.  And if you think you’ve made too much, don’t fret!  This soup freezes well too.

All measurements are approximate.  As I’ve said before, use what you have!  By the way, I used frozen garden okra and beans and home-canned tomatoes.  The home-grown frozen and canned ingredients make this recipe even more frugal.

Makes at least 5-7 cups

  • one large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup okra, cut into thin slices across the grain and then chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup beans (baby limas or “green” (wax, pole, bush) beans–if using “green” beans, cut into short pieces)
  • optional:  1/2 cup to 1 cup leftover turkey, chicken, or pot roast or browned ground meat
  • 1 pint to 1 quart tomatoes and tomato juice (start with less, add as you need or want)
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup corn, off the cob
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by dicing the onion and sauteing it in a heavy-bottomed pot.  While it sautes, prepare the okra.  Are you turning up your nose at the okra? Trust me on this one.  Okra, it is true, can be slimy and disgusting if improperly prepared, but we’re using it to thicken the soup.  It’ll add a mild flavor similar to a bell pepper, and if you don’t tell anyone there’s okra in it, they’ll never know. Once the onion gets a little  color, add the okra.  Turn the heat down to almost nothing, and put a lid on the pot.  Set the timer for an hour.  Stir occasionally, adding a small amount of water or broth as needed to cook the onions and okra into a soft mass.

Meanwhile, prep the rest of the vegetables.  After an hour, add the carrots and celery and a bit more water or broth to cover and cook on low heat about 10-15 minutes.  Now add the beans, the meat or poultry (if you are using any) and about half of the tomatoes and tomato juice.   Add more tomato juice and tomatoes if you’d like extra tomato flavor and/or juice. Simmer for twenty minutes to half an hour or even an hour, adding more tomato juice as the liquid cooks down.  Add the corn, heat thoroughly, and serve. You’ve got a delicious, rich, virtually fat-free meal, all in a big bowl.

We like this soup with traditional cornbread and bread-and-butter pickles (sweet and sour pickles with onion and mustard).  If you’re feeling decadent, a good sharp cheddar alongside tastes good but by no means is necessary.

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Directions

To make this recipe work in the slow cooker, I recommend pre-sauteing the onion.  I also recommend pre-cooking the okra.  You can put everything in at once, but you’ll risk folks recognizing the okra if you don’t pre-cook the okra.  Of course, if your family likes okra, it’s no big deal!  Just toss everything in, turn the cooker to low, and walk away for the day.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2010.  Short excerpts with full links to this site are welcome.  Contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. Short excerpts with full links are welcome.

Beans and ham, beans and cornbread, navy bean soup, ham-bone soup, Senate bean soup:  no matter what you call it, this old Southern favorite that’s not quite soup, not quite vegetable stew can include pork ham, turkey ham, or no animal flesh at all.  The beans can be pretty darn healthy, really healthy, or phenomenally healthy.    Today I’m going to give you all three variations (smidgen of red meat for a low-fat bowl, ultra low-fat bit of poultry, or fat-free vegetarian) on classic Southern beans, any of which can be prepared on the stove top or in a slow cooker.  Oh, they are soooooo good!To duplicate the Southern experience, serve these beans with cornbread (to complete your vegetarian protein), good greens (like turnip or collard), and pickles, chow-chow, or tobasco.  My ancestors made these beans on the top of a wood stove or in a kitchen fire in a big cast iron pot in colder months.  They might have cooked them all day, slowly, on a March or April day after they’d polished off an Easter country ham and just had the bone left.  They might have gathered wild greens, or perhaps they had greens growing in their kitchen garden.  Regardless, these beans with cornbread and greens made great healthy, frugal cuisine then, just as they do today.  They are a classic case of “meat and three,” where any meat included is a seasoning, not the main focus of the dish, and they are a great choice for today’s environmentally and economically conscious culture.

makes about 7 cups

the vegetables:

  • ½ large yellow onion (a full cup diced, give or take a bit)
  • 1 cup  to 1 ½ cups (split) carrots, diced
  • 1 cup to 1 ½ cups (split) celery, diced

the dried beans:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried navy beans (the classic!), pinto beans (more like chili), black beans (think southwest), or another bean like Jacob’s cattle or Anasazi (I used navy beans, black beans, and Anasazi!)


the liquid:

  • 5 -6 ½ cups water, vegetable broth, chicken stock, or turkey stock (or 1/2 smoked turkey stock*, half water)

Use the larger amount for Anasazi beans, the lesser for most other dried beans.  (Anasazi beans need 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans, whereas other beans of similar size need 3 cups of water for every one cup of beans.  We’re adding ½ cup more liquid to make the beans a little brothier.)

optional animal products:

  • 1 ham bone
  • 2-3 slices pork bacon, diced, rendered, and drained of fat (save it!)
  • ¼ cup turkey ham steak, diced

Stove top method:

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Soak the beans overnight or at least all day in a very heavy-bottomed stockpot or a cast iron Dutch oven.  This recipe may be a bit too big for a 2-quart Dutch oven, but you could start with just a portion of the liquid and add the rest as the beans absorb it. You’ll need to cover the beans by at least double or possibly even triple the depth of water.  (You could easily start soaking the beans in the morning and then cook them in the late afternoon.)  Drain off  the soaking liquid and add the cooking liquid (water, stock), onions, half of the carrots and celery, and any animal product you are adding.  Simmer beans, covered, for 1 ½ to 2 hours (less for Anasazi, more for black, the full two hours for navy).  Stir occasionally, but if you’ve picked a suitably heavy pot, you shouldn’t have to worry much about sticking.  After the initial cooking time, add the rest of the carrots and celery and cook the beans for ½ hour to 1 hour to finish softening them.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Method

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Add the beans, the chopped onion, half of the carrots and celery, all of the optional animal flesh and/or bone, and all of the liquid to a slow cooker (known often by the trade-marked name Crock Pot).  Put on the lid and set the slow cooker to low.  Let the beans cook all day.  An hour or so before supper (depending on the type of beans—more time for navy beans, less for black and Anasazi–and your slow cooker), add the rest of the carrots and celery and crank the slow cooker to high for about an hour to finish cooking the beans.  What if you come home and the beans are already soft?  You could turn off the beans, saute the carrots and celery, add them to the beans, and then turn on the cooker right before dinner to reheat it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In order to get the best nutrition from these beans, serve them with whole-grain cornbread (recipe to follow in a future blog post) to make a complete protein (something you can get by mixing whole grains with beans).  Add gently cooked seasonal greens, like mustard greens, turnip greens, or collard greens—or you could even just make a side salad of healthy baby greens.  Serve with cucumber pickles like bread-and-butter or chow-chow (pickled vegetables).  Some people add pickle juice or tobasco hot sauce to the beans and greens.

*Smoked turkey stock. Did you smoke a turkey this year or get one as a gift?  Did you toss the carcass?  Don’t do that again!  For a great smoky stock, cover the smoked-turkey carcass with water, add aromatics (a stalk of celery, some onion chunks, herbs), and simmer for about two hours.  Strain off the bones, vegetables, and herbs then cool the stock.  Skim off the opaque fat that forms at the top.  Use your stock in soups and beans.  I recommend using it for no more than half of the liquid in a recipe, since it is quite strong.

Do you have questions about cooking with dried beans, Southern food, or vegetarian options?  I’ll do my best to answer them!

I’ve posted a traditional, hearty cornbread recipe.  It is all corn meal and minimally sweet, like people used to eat before every bread came to taste like dessert.

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